tv Politics Nation MSNBC August 23, 2013 3:00pm-5:01pm PDT
and please join chris monday at 7:00 eastern. "politicsnation" with al sha sharpton starts right now. i have a dream. my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. i have a dream today. >> the day that changed america forever. the march on washington. august 28th, 1963. people of all races, regular people from all walks of life marching against injustice,
marching to change history. a day when the voices of the movement echoed across america. >> we are of a massive moral revolution. >> how long can we be patient? we want our freedom and we want it now. >> a call to action and a call for peace. the words that inspired a people, a nation, and the entire world. >> free at last, free at last, thank god almighty we are free at last. >> tonight, a special two-hour edition of "politicsnation." the march on washington. the dream continues.
>> good evening. i'm al sharpton live from the lincoln memorial here on the national mall. 50 years ago hundreds of thousands of people stood where i am. right now watching history. millions more watching at home seeing the leaders of the civil rights movement, call for justice and equality. powerful speeches and powerful music from singers like lahalia jackson, bob dylan. tonight we'll hear those voices. we'll also hear from congressman john lewis. i talk to him today from the exact spot on the lincoln memorial where he spoke 50 years ago. and we'll hear from some of the young people who traveled hundreds of miles to attend the march and helped change the course of history. i'm honored to begin this show
tonight with martin luther king iii and the reverend joseph lowrie who call the beginning of the civil rights movement and was also a cofounder of the leadership conference. thank you both for being with me on this historic occasion. >> thank you. >> thank you for having us. >> let me start with you, martin. tomorrow we are having the continuation march that you and i have spearheaded saying that we must combat today's ills and what remains. but let's go back 50 years ago. your father made a speech that has been called one of the great orations in american history. and yet to him -- to you he was just dad. and you continuing to fight in his tradition, what does it mean for you to be here where your father literally changed history? >> well, rev, what it means to
me is that while we reflect, recognize what he and his team -- dr. lowrie being one of those -- was to transform this nation in a most positive way so that people -- he took the words interestingly enough, the words of our history and really made poetic music out of it. it was quite remarkable. that's the positive side. the challenge and opportunities that exist today in a sense state that in many senses we've made individual progress, but collective progress we haven't made enough of. when we look at the unemployment rate in african-american communities 18 to 30. anywhere from 18% to as high as 40%. when we look at the fact violence and murder is up. violence in our nation and murder. when we look at the fact that
unemployment overall is not where it needs to be. so it's exciting, but it's a challenging time as we approach this 50th anniversary. >> now, let me ask you this. you and i and others that are out here today dealing with issues like the voter suppression like stop and frisk have no idea the kind of pressure your mother and father was under. your father had been indicted for income tax, house bombed. you later had had lost your grandmother shot by someone crazed. all the questions about your uncle. give us as a family member the sense of sacrifice, because everyone sees the ceremony. but you had to sit at home and see your mother deal with the anxiety and the pain. >> yes, i did, but i'm so thankful that she sort of prepared our environment and our home and sheltered us to some
degree. but, you know, one of the examples was oftentimes we received phone calls. of course, our home was bombed. before i was born in 1955 in montgomery. the home was bombed. fortunately no one was hurt. but we get calls all the time. any one of us, my siblings, and i could answer the phone and it would be an ugly voice saying ugly things. i'm sure that had an impact on us. but fortunately we were able to overcome that because mom taught us the epic of love and forgiveness. then of course after dad was killed, it had to be reinforced and learned again. granddaddy king said i refuse to let any man reduce me to hatred. the man that killed my lovely wife for the man who killed my son, i refuse them even to reduce me to hatred. all of that reinforcing helps us to make it through. >> that's what we have to pass to this generation behind us.
dr. joseph lowrie, the dean himself. it's an honor you're here with us tonight as well as tomorrow. you are one of the only survivors that was in leadership 50 years ago. a cofounder of the sclc where dr. king chaired the board, became president. and you lived to tell us. and you live to do the invocation for the first african-american president of the united states barack obama. >> benediction. >> the benediction. >> get it straight. >> you closed. >> last word. >> you had the last word. all right. well, dr. lowrie, how do you feel? first of all, let's go back. how was those times? because people don't realize this wasn't just a bus outing coming to washington. there was major struggles in the south. james farmer who headed one of the civil rights groups couldn't even make it, he was in jail. there had been blood shed.
tell us the environment that this march happened in. >> well, you know, you sound like john kennedy. he was assured there was going to be violence. he was sure we'd have turmoil and turbulence of all kind at the march. but we had faith. god had brought us along, dr. king kept us under the commitment to let justice roll down but not let violence roll down in our experience. so we trusted god. and we prayed. when i got to washington, i came in early that morning from chicago, and there was nobody around. i came on a plane and i got nervous that we made a mistake. but then late morning, the place filled up. and we had been having martin tell us everybody who came this
would be a non-violent experiment. a non-violent experience. and surely enough there wasn't a single arrest that i recall made. there was no violence. people were joyful. people were warm and loving. and people were serious. people came -- we didn't -- excuse me. we didn't come to play. we came to change history. really didn't know we'd change as much as we did, but we knew america would never be the same after those 250,000 people. >> when you came, blacks across the south couldn't vote in most places, they couldn't use public accommodations. i mean, people drove here, couldn't even stop and use the public toilet. it was not what we're going to do tomorrow. >> my father was a republican at the time. because he couldn't be anything else. the democratic party had a slogan in alabama where i was
born and where my father lived most of his life, had the slogan white supremacy. and that was the slogan on the emblem of the democratic party, so my father voted republican. he couldn't understand until roosevelt how any black could vote white. but that march changed america, it changed us. but, you know, let me say this, brother sharpton. i'm grateful to you and martin, i call you mr. king if you insist. but we didn't come up here just to commemorate the past. we came up here to celebrate the future. we came up here to say that we've got a lot of things that have not changed, and we intend to finish the job that we've started in 1963. >> martin, i think that he is saying exactly what we're
saying. what does this generation and the generation behind us need to know? because not only did the movement open doors for blacks, it opened doors for women, it open doors for latinos, asian, gays. i mean, it really opened up america. >> it certainly did. in fact, many of the suffrage movements derived the inspiration from the modern civil rights movement that dad led and others -- so many dad became one of the leaders. he is by far -- there's not only one leader. he certainly personified something significant. but there were a lot of people, a lot of unsung heroes who were part of this movement. what young people need to do is find what their calling is and assume their rightful roles in a nation where, you know, we are mastering run and rapping and rhyming instead of reading,
writing, and arithmetic. we need that to compliment the running rapping and rhyming. >> reverend lowery are in your senior years. i believe you're 92. >> i'll be 92 in october, the lord willing. >> the lord willing, you'll be 92. as you look back over the decades, what is the things that you can say you're most fond and most proud of? >> well, that's hard to say, but i'll answer that because if you give me a minute, i was looking through some sermons the other day and i ran across one i preached in the 1980s. and the name of that sermon was everything has changed, and nothing has changed. >> wow. >> and i'm dusting it off, because i'm going to preach it again. because it's just as appropriate today as it was in the '80s. everything has changed, but nothing has changed. and we come up here not just to
commemorate the past, but to chart a course for the future. and everything has changed. we've got more black elected officials than we've ever had. we even got somebody who operates over here in the house somewhere in this city. >> the white house. >> the white house. and yet at the same time, 30-some states are charting a course to deny us the right to vote. which we earned and which we died for. everything has changed and nothing has changed. so young people have their work cut out for them. i don't know what i could remember as most impressive in those days except i remember that i didn't get to speak because every organization had one speaker. >> well, you're speaking tomorrow. martin and i have you on the program. >> i'm going to give the whole sermon i planned to give if i had spoken back in '63.
>> all right. martin, before we go, you had put out a book for children. and sunday after the march we'll go to the king memorial between 1:00 and 4:00 and you'll sign books for kids. >> yes. i don't like to do this, but -- >> i insisted you do this. >> all right. i have a children book entitled "my daddy: dr. martin luther king jr." there are all sorts of historical books on dad's leadership and everything you can think of. but i'm blessed to be one of his children. i write from that and lessons i learned at the age four through eight years old. we'll be signing at the memorial. >> dr. martin luther king iii and reverend joseph lowery. thank you both. coming up, thousands came from every corner of this country. black and white.
to make history 50 years ago. tonight we'll hear from some of those voices. plus my interview with a living icon. a man who brought the crowd to their feet that august day. congressman john lewis. >> we do not get legislation out of this congress. the time will come when we will march through the streets of jackson, through the streets of danville, through the streets of cambridge. >> a legend in her own right joins me on set. and as we go to break, the music that day was an essential part of the event. it included a legendary rendition of "we shall overcome" led by joan baez and sung by a chorus of hundreds of thousands of people.
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just two months earlier. medgar evers spent his life trying to change b this country. he was the naacp's first field secretary in mississippi. he had fought for his country in world war ii. before coming home to fight for justice here. his assassination by a white supremacist in june of 1963 helped to inspire the march on washington. joining me now is myrlie evers williams, the widow of medgar evers and a legendary civil rights leader in her own right. and historian taylor branch author of the trilogy of books on dr. king and the civil rights movement. thank you both for being on tonight. >> it's a pleasure. >> thank you. >> let me start with you ms. evers williams. your husband was killed in june of '63, and it was part of what
really ignited the movement that had already started around having this march. you were the speaker at that march and didn't make it. and one of the things we're most proud of is tomorrow you're going to make that speech at lincoln memorial for the march on washington. >> well, thank you. >> 50 years later. >> thank you ever so much. >> tell us what was running through your mind as you fought in mississippi and the climate in 1963. because i don't think people understand that we've seen a lot of marches, but they don't understand the climate and the danger that people faced. you had literally just lost your husband with your three children sitting inside. >> not only were the children sitting inside, but they also saw their father. the shots rang out, they did what he told them to do. go to the bathroom and get in the tub. because it was the safest place in the house. they ran out when they heard me scream and they saw their father
lying there in a pool of blood with his keys in his hand. so, you know, as we talk about that period of time and the children of the slain heroes, the children have sacrificed a lot. and i think we are so proud of them to see how they have come forth in their own right to do what they had to do. that was a terrific and terrible time, because the momentum of the movement had gained a pace that we knew something terrible was going to happen very soon. you live with the threat of death, and you know that it's going to come at any particular time. mississippi was the key state, if you will, and perhaps i'm saying that because i'm from mississippi. the key state for all of the brutality and the changes that came along at that particular time. we go back to emmet till and so
many other cases that are not as well known that medgar investigated and was there on hand with all of it. and you live with knowing that your days are numbered. it's not easy, but you do it because you believe and you care. and all of those people who spent days in jail, who spent days out in the open and food and drink brought to them and the cops would spit in the food. and here you are. that was a swell of young people who became involved at that time as well. >> taylor branch, you wrote about the anxiety about the march. because in the rewrite of history, everyone was on the side of the march and civil rights. but you wrote the city banned liquor sales for the first time since prohibition. president kennedy and his military chiefs were poised to trigger suppression by 4,000 troops assembled in the suburbs.
the washington senators postponed two days' games. so this march was not welcomed with open arms 50 years ago. >> absolutely not. we have a terrible history in the united states of rewriting our racial history to make it more comfortable to us. the comfort was made by the people who came here and showed america that it was wrong about what the march was going to be like. people were terrified. i spent a lot of time interviewing byron rush who was in charge of the logistics. he said he teased the reporters afterwards because they had said it was going to be a disaster and armageddon. they said it would have been except for a guy byron who put porta potties on the side and made them ready for tea. and the movement was confronting those fears to try to make americans understand that our
hope was living up to the best in the american dream. and that people that didn't even have the rights that the rest of us took for granted were the ones pushing us forward. as a white southerner, i look back and say it was the best thing that happened to the white south. you never heard of the sun belt south when it was segregated. it was poor and trapped in the segregation. it libertied the white south too. and women from things young people today cannot have a hard time imagining. that black people couldn't go into public libraries or rest stops. that women couldn't serve on juries. they couldn't go to my university, the university of north carolina at chapel hill unless they were nursing students by state law. things like that. the movement opened up those things and is the gateway to really realize things. and so we all stand on the shoulders of this movement. >> and there was violence. i mean, dr. king led a non-violent movement. there was no violence during the march. but you were subjected to
violence and violent threats every day in mississippi and birmingham happened that summer. >> every day. >> tell people where the resolve where you might get killed had to come from. >> i think one had to truly believe that america could become the kind of country that we all knew that it could be. medgar fought in world war ii for freedom. he came home, saw everything was different. i on the other hand grew up in a very segregated society in mississippi and nothing was expected of me expect from our small community. but you slept, you ate, you did everything looking over your shoulders and being alert that one day something was going to happen to you. i think of the radios that played dixie almost 24 hours a day. it was a kind of a brainwashing
type of thing. you knew what sound was which. if a car backfired, you knew it. you knew the sound of a motor of your car. we watched out for each other in our neighborhoods. and we knew that something violent was going to happen. so you'd better be prepared for it. how do you prepare for something like that? you come together as a group. you hope, you work, you play, you plot, you plan, and you wait. but you don't stop while you are waiting. and i think about our young people today and as i look across and see camera crews, never would we have thought that we would have young people of color in the positions that they are in on television nor you sitting where you are, reverend sharpton. it would not be, because i recall the time when lena horne,
sammy davis jr., and roy wilkins were probably the only african-americans ever on television and whenever they would come on a program, the tv would go black. and nothing was said. nothing was done until they were off. and then you usually heard dixie being played and the original program being restored. there have been so many changes, and i just -- i think about all of those people that we don't even mention or don't know who paid such a tremendous price. you are doing -- and everyone else involved in this -- you're providing such a wonderful service of knowledge of the past. because we can move forward with that and hopefully that's exactly what we're going to do. >> that's what we're doing this for. and that's what tomorrow is about dealing with today's issues. but we need to know what happened. taylor branch, dr. king's speech is now one of history's high points. and you wrote in your book that
president kennedy in reacting to the speech, actually watched the speech. i'm going to read from your book. kennedy was witnessing a complete king speech for the first time. he's damn good, the president remarked to his aides. later he greeted king with a smiling i have a dream. tell us about how the president at that time john kennedy had kind of a complicated relationship with dr. king in civil rights. >> very complicated. the president had just proposed a civil rights bill in june that very night medgar evers was killed, he gave a speech, proposed the bill. but he saw himself as cutting loose from the solid democratic south which had been the base for democratic presidents for a hundred years. so he was petrified. and when martin luther king came to see him about how are we going to pass this bill, president kennedy refused to talk to him until he satisfied
jay edgar hoover that he wasn't involved with anybody hoover thought was conversive. kennedy said we're with you now. so he was frightened. but he knew a good speech when he heard it and he knew a good line when he heard it. it's quite remarkable that none of the "i have a dream" we remember was in dr. king's prepared speech. >> we'll get to that in the show. ms. evers williams, you know also there weren't a lot of women speakers that day. you were scheduled and didn't make it. and byron rusten who taylor mentioned was told to take a back seat because he was gay. all of that, we're going to deal with tomorrow. i think that you can't fight for some civil rights without fighting for all civil rights. you undermine it. but the women that were heroes in the movement never really got
their recognition until many years later. but women were just as important and just as courageous and worked sometimes even harder than the men that got the recognition. >> you have no idea how delighted i am to hear you say that. because you captured the essence of that entire issue. and i hope that this time that we will see more women being recognized and being able to move forward. if i may pull on the friendship of clareta scott king and myself, we were very close and talked about that same thing. where are the women? are we really being recognized for what we have done and continued to do? and think of women who would come to our office on saturdays after getting their little paychecks and would reach in their blouses wet with
perspiration, pull out a few dollar bills and say here this is for the cause. we would say no, you don't have enough. keep that for yourselves. no, we have to do something. we can't march. we support our children. we support our pastors. but this is what i can do to give. women helped to build all of this. and i really think -- i know that we have not gotten the credit for what we have done. and i hope that will change from this march forward. >> we're definitely going to see to that. myrlie evers williams and taylor branch, thank you for being here. ahead, reliving the march. the march was of the likes this country had never seen. we'll show you some of the press coverage that day. from celebrities to activists, the march electrified the nation. among the voices that day, the reverent fred shuttlesworth renowned for his courage and fearlessness.
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at&t mobile share for business. ♪ ♪ this represents a grassroots deep determination in the hearts of millions of brown americans to be free. and it is a tribute to them that they have chosen to still appeal to their government in this type of dignified manner. >> it was truly a grassroots movement. and one of the big six organizers of that ground swell was the man who just heard. whitney young. as president of the national urban league, he helped rally the throngs that gathered that day. they were marching for justice,
but also jobs. in the 50 years since, much progress has been made, but those issues are still at the forefront of what we all still fight for today. joining me now is the man who's carrying mr. young's torch today, mark moreall president of the national urban league. and tom joyner, host of the tom joyner morning show. he will host our rally tomorrow and march. thank you, both. >> thank you. >> thank you so much, reverend. >> mark, we made tremendous progress as a country, but we're reliving many of the same battles today, aren't we? >> particularly in the area of economics and jobs. the unemployment rate is twice as high as it is for whites for african-americans and latinos are not much better off. and in fact, the unemployment rate for african-americans is higher today than it was in
1963. the economic divide, income inequality, that to me is an essential part of why we march and what tomorrow's going to be about. >> now, you have looked at the -- you know the urban league puts out black state of the year. you look at these things with data. to spearhead where we're going tomorrow. what are the important things that we want this nation to know about today? >> we want this nation to think about the work that has to be done in five areas. and that's the agenda we put together and we announced today. it's economic disparities in unemployment. it's education and our children. it is protection of democracy and voting rights. it is reform of the criminal justice system. and it's helped disparities. we want the nation to know that
as far as we've come, the unfinished work means we need a new civil rights movement. >> tom joyner, you have one of the biggest microphones, biggest megaphones in america. and you never hesitated to use it to rally troops. we wouldn't have done this march without you. we couldn't have done trayvon martin and other things without informing your audience. and you are known all over this nation as one of the great voices of entertainment but also with a purpose. but what a lot of people may not know in the tv world, you come from alabama. you grew up at a time the movement was fervent. tell us about how it was growing up in that time. >> well, if you saw -- if you looked at -- when you see the people marching and you see the dogs and the hoses in alabama, you see children. and i was a child then. i did get a chance to march the last leg of the selma to
montgomery march. but every weekend we were doing something. we were marching for to desegregate churches, lunch counters, schools. and that's the way it was. every weekend we would march. the children. the children would march. and they had some great sandwiches too. and i was a fat kid. and i loved marching for sandwiches. i'd like to tell you i was out there for justice and civil rights. but as a fat kid, i was really out there for the sandwiches. it was a great time. because our whole community came together. the whole community came together. and our parents didn't want to risk their jobs, so the children went out. that's the way it was growing up in alabama. >> you know, when we look at the big six and i was just talking with myrlie evers about the women who were unsung heroes, we saw a diverse of leadership
where everybody had their roles and complimented each other. and that's what you and some of us have tried to do. >> we are working hard, reverend, and you've been an important part of this creating a spirit of collaboration and coalition. our ability to work together. and we've got dynamic women who are part of this movement. and this new civil rights movement i think is prepared to confront the challenges of now into the future. and i'm just proud to be part -- in fact, i feel privileged to be part of what will happen tomorrow. >> tom, the entertainment world was front and center in many parts of the civil rights movement including the march on washington. today, though, many of our entertainers seemed to run away from issues unless they get real hot. and you have insisted on calling them out saying you need to help those that have made you
successful. and you have not been shy about calling them out in helping black colleges, helping education and things that you put millions of your dollars in. >> yeah, that's true. that's true. but the one thing that radio -- black radio in particular has never been given credit for, and that was our role in getting people to march. getting people to come to washington, d.c. let's think back. this was 50 years ago. there was no msnbc. there was no social media. the best you had was u.s. mail and with a nickel stamp you could get a flier in the mail within seven days. you had the telephones but you didn't have cell phones. so everyone didn't have a phone walking around. you couldn't just call people. you had radio. dr. king didn't have a megachurch. maybe had a membership of 250
people. and only a hundred of them could get in the sanctuary at one time. you didn't have megachurches. you had radio. and radio was a part of every black person's life. so when dr. king or reverend abernathy or joseph lowery or any of the civil rights workers would come by the radio station, we stopped playing the temptations and james. we would hand the microphones to the civil rights workers maybe sometimes drop it out the window and they would tell us when and where we were going to march. >> you'll be hosting tomorrow and we'll take it to the 21st century. thank you both for joining us this evening. thank you for helping us bring tens of thousands here. still ahead, they came by train, by bus, even by foot across hundreds of miles.
coming up, i'll talk to two women whose lives were forever changed by that day. and as we go to break, here's legendary singer and civil rights activist harry bellefonte on what the march meant to him. >> to be in washington was for me today a beginning really. a kind of a climax to generations of hope. i've see. otherworldly things. but there are some things i've never seen before. this ge jet engine can understand 5,000 data samples per second. which is good for business. because planes use less fuel, spend less time on the ground and more time in the air. suddenly, faraway places don't seem so...far away. ♪ ever... she let him plan the vacation.
old in the summer of 1963, but she and her sister dory had already worked in the civil rights movement for years. they grew up in mississippi but worked in new york that summer with a student non-violent coordinating committee. helping to organize the march. they raised money to bring bus loads of people to the march. particularly people from the south. joining me now are joyce and dory. thank you both for being here. >> thank you for inviting us. >> thank you, reverend. >> joyce, tell me about the badge around your neck you're wearing. >> this is my badge from the original march from 50 years ago. >> right here. >> yes for the reserve section. i was working for the reserved section. as a staff member i was able to go on the lincoln memorial and move around in the crowd and so on. >> why was it important for you to be at the march 50 years ago?
>> it was very important because we grew up in hattiesburg, mississippi. got expelled for organizing a civil rights demonstration and then went to tulu college. sent to representatives to work on organizing the march. and then dory went to work at the other office. but that's -- i was an organizer for the march. that's why i was here. >> dory, the morning of the march you went and protested at the justice department. >> yes, sir. >> then you came over to the march. what was your reaction when you got here and saw the march? >> i was overwhelmed, reverend. i didn't think we would have mobilized that many people. that that many people had the same concerns i did coming from mississippi where we had been tear gassed in 1961, medgar evers murdered june 1963 just before the march. and we had been expelled from
jackson state college for protesting. so we had a lot of grievances to bring. also voter registration, we didn't have the right to vote. >> let me ask you, joyce. tell me why you feel the crowd came that came. everyone has said tonight that they didn't expect the crowd that came. what do you think caused it? >> i think it was because people were tired of what was happening in the south. and they wanted to do something about it. one thing that happened that morning, i was here about 7:30 that morning. we wondered are the people really going to come. we thought we'd get a hundred,000. but 250,000 came. everyone was interested in this thing called civil rights. we brought people up from the south so they could see that they were not alone. that they were not isolated. i think it was the first time
that the march was nationalized. >> tell me, dorie, about medgar evers. you worked with medgar evers? >> yes. i was with medgar evers the night he was killed. we were at ways to boycott at downtown jackson, mississippi. president kennedy had spoken about the civil rights that night so we went to the elks to get some food. about 9:00 we got up to leave. and we said outside getting in our cars we'll see you tomorrow. and we went home to our respective houses and he was killed. and reverend, that night i could not sleep. the doors were slamming and shutting. i had a restless sleep. when my cousin knocked around 3:00 in the morning and said medgar's dead. i said i knew it. >> you mentioned -- >> good organizers.
>> he organized that march. >> yes, he did. >> great organizers and great teachers. he had this unusual ability to see the big picture and all the little parts that had to be put together piece by piece. he pulled together -- there were only about 12 of us working with him up on 135th street that summer. i understand he gave you a scholarship. >> that's right. he did. >> but he was a masterful tactician and a practical pragmatic person. by the time we got washington the day before the march, all the work was done. all we had to do is wait. >> thank you both for your time tonight. >> thank you, reverend. >> thank you. much, much more from our special two-hour edition of "politicsnation" live from lincoln memorial. including berniece a. king on what her father's legacy means now 50 years later. and my interview with a living icon. congressman john lewis. my mother made the best toffee in the world.
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could've had a v8. in the juice aisle. by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. i have a dream today. ♪ welcome back to a special edition of "politicsnation." the march on washington: the dream continues. >> good evening. i'm al sharpton continuing our special coverage live from the lincoln memorial on the national mall. 50 years ago, the eyes of the
nation were on this spot where hundreds of thousands of people converged on history. people of all races from all walks of life joining hands in the name of justice and civil rights. in this hour, we'll hear from some of the people who traveled so far to attend this march. including the young girl shown in this iconic photo. i'll talk to her now 50 years later about how the march changed her life. we also have my interview with congressman john lewis from the steps of lincoln memorial where he spoke a half a century ago. i'm honored to begin the second hour of our show tonight with bernie a. king, ceo of the king center. thank you for being here today. >> thank you. glad to be here. >> you head the king center where your mother founded many years ago. and you have struggled and
worked to keep the legacy of your mother and father alive. and this march tomorrow is one of five days that you have helped to orchestrate and push and pull and make sure it happened. but you were a child when this happened. >> i was an infant. >> in arms when the march happened. and you were still very young when you lost your dad. b how do you explain the fire in you? >> well, i mean, other than the holy spirit, that's where it comes from. it also comes from growing up in a home where we were taught about giving back service to our community. and also because my mother was so passionate. and we could sense and feel and see her passion. and i think that transferred to all of us in different and unique ways.
and that's why i'm the person i am today. >> on wednesday the actual anniversary of the march, you had two former presidents and cities around the country ringing a bell at the time your father delivered the "i have a dream" speech. tell us why that's important and why what the bell symbolizes to you. >> he talked about freedom in the speech. and in the speech he said 100 years later the negro is still not free and said let freedom ring from all these places. so we've got literally cities all over this nation including the ones that he spoke about ringing bells at 3:00 to symbolize a moment where we reflect, remember, and recommit to the ideals that he spoke about. i really believe that when you create an energy field of something at the same time, there's a human consciousness
that is raised and it can literally cause a tipping point. and we need that tipping point desperately now with everything we've seen that has happened, the convergence of so many things in 2013, we need that consciousness, awareness in our nation and world. it's important because this speech that he made is not one of but it is the only galvanizing speech in the world. >> you know, that your mother who i was privileged to do some work with with your brother used to talk about i remember one night she said to me, al, i have had to deal with racism and sexism even in the movement. and one woman that has had to fight that is randy wynngardener. and your father had walter
reuther and labor leaders who made this march 50 years ago. she made this march happen this year. because she said labor and civil rights belong together. thank you for coming on the show. >> it's my honor. >> tell us why it was so important to you -- teachers who by the way have become the scapegoats of layoffs all over this country. tell us why it's important this week. >> and i was a high school social studies teacher. i taught your father's speech so many times in so many classes. and saw my kids have that galvanizing moment of saying this man could speak in front of all those people and move them and move a country and move a president and you can see how it was a moment in a classroom and we do need it to be a tipping
point. so the point is the coalition in the march on washington was a coalition of labor and civil rights activists who knew that pulling power together would be the only way to move a country. and the speech was if i remember my history correctly was for jobs and justice. and your father knew the special intersection between economic justice and civil rights. and so it was very important that coming together 50 years later, the issue about jobs where we now have the worst income inequality in the united states of america since the great depression. where instead of the -- even though rhetorically people talk about education all the time -- but we can't just speak of something, we must act on it.
and they can't ensure a great public education for all kids. instead of that you see the scapegoating and the margin alizing. like you saw in the civil rights movement. just like people did to your father. and so it felt like if we don't bring the coalition together of clergy, of civil rights activists, gay, straight, black, white, brown, women, men and workers altogether, we would not actually do what we need to do 50 years later. >> what do you hope that we can lay in front of the nation tomorrow that will deal with working people and this economic inequality. >> three things. number one, if education is the highway to economic opportunity, then we must together not just parents and teachers and kids reclaim the promise of public education. great neighborhood public
schools that have at their welcoming and safe and have the environment that kids need to thrive. so they cannot only dream their dreams, but achieve it. number two, we need as a society to focus on shared prosperity, to focus on what randolph said a good wage and good job for all people who want it. and number three, we need to bring the social and the economic justice movements together because -- and we need to connect the dots. because when there's voter suppression, then there's wage suppression. when there is an inability for a black boy to walk in the streets safely, then no one is safe. and so we need to actually connect those dots between marriage equality and immigration rights. and all of the other issues to make this a more just society and a more equal society. >> you know, one of my greatest
rights was i joined you and your brother on the balcony in memphis on the exact moment 40 years after the year your father was assassinated. i don't think people understand the sacrifices that you all made. you grew up without a father and all he did was help people. your mother had to carry that burden and take all kinds of criticism even from other civil rights leaders. what has given you and your family the ability to suffer all that pain and yet not take it personal just keep going? >> well, i -- you know, i can just speak for me. i said recently that, yes, i lost a father and lost many moments with having that father at different intersections of my life. in some respects, we lost some of the presence of our mother in the way we would have had her had my father still been here. but my loss is the world's gain.
and i find comfort in that to know that he gave his life for the world. that may mother gave her life for the world, for the advancement of the world. so even though there are moments where you say, you know, i wish we would have had them more times than not, when you look at the fact that our world is in a better place because of the sacrifice they made, that brings me comfort and that brings me joy. and me being in ministry and understanding the role in the sacrifice that's required for one who's in ministry, then i have a peace about it. >> i'm sure they are both very proud of you and martin and dexter and what y'all are doing. your mother was very proud of your ministry. berniece king and randi weingarten, thank you. coming up, a man that brought the crowd to their feet
that day, congressman john lewis. >> when the mississippi in southwest georgia and alabama, in harlem, chicago, philadelphia, and all over this nation the blacks are on the march for freedom. >> plus the force of labor vital to the civil rights movement, vital to the success of the march on washington. and as we go to break, the beat of music at the heart of the day. gospel singer mahalia jackson and herren addition of "how i got over" went down in history. ♪ how did we make it over ♪ look back in wonder how we made it over ♪ ♪ tell me how we got over [ whispering ] uh! i had a nightmare!
the house caught fire and we were out on the streets. [ whispering ] shhh. it's only a dream. and we have home insurance. but if we made a claim, our rate would go up... [ whispering ] shhh. you did it right. you have allstate claim rate guard so your rates won't go up just because of a claim. [ whispering ] are we still in a dream? no, you're in an allstate commercial. so get allstate home insurance with claim rate guard... [ whispering ] goodnight. there are so many people in our bedroom. [ dennis ] talk to an allstate agent... [ doorbell rings ] ...and let the good life in.
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i am here today with you because with you i share the view that the struggle for civil rights and the struggle for equal opportunity is not the struggle of negro americans but the struggle for every american to join in. >> labor leaders from around the country were vital to the success of the march on washington. because this focus touched the needs of all communities. they were fighting for living wages, for decent employment. needs that affect each and every american then and now. joining me now is lee saunders president of ask me the nation's largest employee union. and dennis van robel. thank you both for coming on the show. >> good to be here. >> good to be here, reverend. >> lee, let me start with you. it's 50 years later, but the message of the march still resonates and the issues are still before us. >> there's no question about it.
we've still got to talk about the creation of quality jobs in this country. we've still got to -- trying to take air civil rights away, workers rights, collective bargaining. the issues we were confronted with in 1963 though we made great advances. that's why this march is important. this is not just a commemoration. this is about a rededication, a recommitment to what we must do as a community. and it can't be a one-day march. it's got to be a march where we sing the praises of 1963 tomorrow, we talk about the challenges of today and tomorrow, and then we go into our communities from now into the future and talk about what kind of country we want to live in. >> dennis, the educational policies in this country, the right wing has said on one hand we want to be the ones to bring education to the next level.
we're going to privatize it. we're going to take away teachers wages. i can't think of a more important civil right in this country than the democratization -- >> let me talk about jobs and freedom. the ro and the kids our next generation, that's going to go through education. i think one of the really special things about this march, we reach back into our retired membership and we found a whole group who had been there in 1963 and we've got them here and they're talking to people. we also did a two-day training with young people. we forget sometimes how young all those people were who were at the march in 1963. we've got to do both. lee hit it on the head. by engaging and training these young people to be activists, we're going to make sure the dream lives on beyond this year into the future. >> you know, lee, dr. king went to memphis and was killed
helping a strike of the local of your union. and you go back every year and help that local commemorate. but that showed how closely labor and civil rights worked together then. walter reuther we saw from uaw but even locals were so involved in the movement. and that's what we've tried to rebuild and have done so with this march this 50 years later. if we all are together, this is a power that can't be resisted. >> i believe you're exactly right. dr. king understood this. he understood that this was a fight about civil rights, this was a fight about human rights, this was a fight about labor rights, economic rights, workers rights. and he was able to merge all of those kiepds of arguments and all of those kinds of segments in our society and we came together. that coalition came together we must never, ever forget that. that's why we're commemorating
the 1963 march tomorrow but we're going to work towards a future and ensure that we have quality jobs, quality education, workers rights, civil rights, and human rights and voting rights. >> dennis, when they left 50 years ago by the next year they had the civil rights ak t. by '65 the voting rights act. what do you hope we can accomplish in the next couple years? >> wouldn't it be wonderful just to have them introduced in this congress. but we've got to get congress to understand the road forward in this country is about economic rights and voting rights and engaging all citizens, not just some. as we look forward, i hope we start a new movement. something that engages young and old and everyone in between. to say the america we have today is not the america we want in the future. and it's going to take all of us working together to make that dream come alive. >> lee, we have a midterm election. people already doing voter suppression, voter i.d., ending early voting. how important is protecting the
vote, the right to vote, and registered voters. >> it's the number one priority. we've got to recognize that if we don't have that right to vote, if we let these voter rights advocates try to take away our right to vote, then we're going to lose in 2014. and everything that dr. king fought for and so many of our allies fought for would have been for naught. we have got to make sure that through congress and communities we make people understand the importance of what they're trying to do as far as steal our voices and voting rights away from us. that's why it's so important. we've got to go back to our communities after tomorrow we've got to educate, mobilize, organize. not only for tomorrow and the next day, but up until 2014 and beyond. >> now, dennis, we have these voter rights questions, but we also have right to work states. union busters where they glorify in trying to break the unions like if the unions are doing
something wrong -- i mean, it's the most ugly anti-human climate i've heard since studying about it when i was a kid. how do you combat that? >> you know, i think sometimes we forget how we got rid of child labor. how we got to 40-hour work week. how we got vacation and health care for workers. none of those were given to us by benevolent ceos. it was by engaging the voice of middle class america. what made america great was the fact that we built this strong middle class. and that was done by labor in this country. it was coming together, giving a voice to the common everyday guy that's going to work every day. and every woman. that's what we need again. we've got to raise everybody's level of compensation, rights, responsibility. not just some. >> you know, lee, in detroit where they just filed bankruptcy, they are actually talking about messing with
people's pension. that the autobillionaires companies got bailed out and they're talking about taking workers pensions. and people want to know why we're marching? >> the retirees pensions in detroit average $19,000 a year. yet they want to attack the workers, they want to attack retirees. we've got to say no. we are not going to let that happen. they are using workers as scapegoats. that's one of the reasons we're out here tomorrow and we're going to be here until we're able to fight successfully for workers rights all over this country. it is a shame that folks would go after a retiree who makes $19,000 a year expecting they can sacrifice more. we've got to say no to that, al. all of us. our communities, our coalition partners, labor unions. we've got to say that's unacceptable in the richest country on the face of the earth. >> dennis, the speech we all remember was "i have a dream." but the person who called this march 50 years ago was a labor
leader named a. phillip randolph. let's watch him. >> we believe that it is one of the biggest, most creative, and constructive demonstrations ever held in the history of our nation. >> so randolph called the march and brought this coalition of labor and civil rights together. and that's really in the 21st century version of what we are trying to do and believe will do tomorrow. >> absolutely. one of the phrases i think we all need to take from this and lee said it very well. but when dr. martin luther king jr. was speaking to us, he talked about the urgency of now. it's not a time to wait. it's not a time to stand back or sit down. it is a time to rise up, speak out, and come together and say we can do better as a nation. and together, all of us, can make a right for the youngest,
oldest, and everyone in between. the urgency of now. we've got to make something happen. >> lee saunders and dennis van rokel, thanks for coming on the show tonight. we will certainly see you in the morning. still ahead, my interview with a living icon. congressman john lewis from the steps of the lincoln memorial. you're watching the continuing coverage of a special edition of "politicsnation." live from lincoln memorial. >> when we allow freedom to ring. when we let it ring from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of god's children, black men and white men, jews and protestants and catholics will be able to join hands and sing free at last, free at last,
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we will attempt to define the whole course, the scope, the methods, the purpose, the results so far of what we are calling the american revolution of '63. >> reporters were already calling it a revolution. the nbc news reports from the march on washington showed the entire country what was happening in d.c.
one reporter was literally surrounded by marchers singing for freedom at union station. >> from the concourse at union station while the marchers around me are singing their great songs. ♪ on our way to freedom ♪ i shall not be moved >> another reporter was staked out at the white house describing president kennedy's action that day. >> in approximately 30 minutes the leaders of the march on washington will come here to see president kennedy. the president has watched the march, he watched it this morning and then this afternoon on television. during the regular business he conducted. >> the march was front page news across the country. "the new york times" called it an orderly rally. and included excerpts from dr. king's speech. and an interesting note, "the
washington post" front page story actually made no mention of dr. king's speech. americans would learn about it anyway. 50 years ago the march on washington was already on its way into the history books. >> nbc news coverage of the march on washington will continue after this message. ♪ he's got the whole world in his hands ♪ ♪ he's got the big round world in his hands ♪ ♪ he's got the wide world in his hands ♪ ♪ heath got the whole world in his hands ♪ we've completely redone the house. it's hard to find contractors with the passion and the skill, and that's why we use angie's list. online or on the phone, we help you hire right the first time with honest reviews on over 720 local services.
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we are tired of being beaten by policemen. we are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again and you holler be patient. how long can we be patient? we want our freedom and we want it now. >> at 23 years old, congressman john lewis was the youngest speaker at the march on washington. he's also the last surviving speaker from that day. he went on to become one of the key players in ending racial segregation in this country. i had the honor of talking with the congressman this morning
about his memories from that historic day 50 years ago. >> i must tell you, i feel more than lucky but very blessed to be able to stand here 50 years later and to see the progress we've made. and just to see the changes have occurred. if someone had told me 50 years ago that an african-american would be in the white house as the president, i probably would have said you're crazy. out of your mind. you don't know what you're talking about. the country is a different country. and we're better people. >> now, when we get to washington, when all of the marchers and the leaders get here, one of the big six is in jail in louisiana. couldn't even come because he was in jail from protest. the tension behind the stage here was over your speech. >> by the forces of our demands,
our determination, and our numbers, we should split a segregated south into a thousand pieces and put them together in the image of god and democracy. we must say wake up, erk many, wake up. for we will not stop and we will not be patient. >> they wanted to change a line in your speech. tell us about that. >> near the end of the speech, near the very end, i said something like if we do not see meaningful progress today they will come we may be forced to march through the south the way sherman did non-violently. they said no you can't say that. and the archbishop of the diocese in washington said not to give it if i didn't change it. we met think this side of lincoln. and we had a portable typewriter. and the executive secretary of
the non-violent organization, a. phillip randolph was there, dr. king, mr. will kin. and he said to me can we change that? i said john, that doesn't sound like you. and mr. randolph said we've come this far together. let's stay together. i couldn't say no to a. phillip randolph. i couldn't say no to martin luther king jr. >> as you walked to the podium here to speak, what was going through your mind. you'd been in the trenches, you'd been arrested. you faced all that. what were you thinking when you stood here and looked out? >> when i stood here and looked out and saw the sea of humanity, i was gratified. i was deeply moved and inspired so many people had turned out. some people say it was 250,000 people. i think it was many more.
i looked to my right and i saw all of these young people standing there just cheering. and then i looked to my left, i saw young men black and white, up in the trees trying to get a better view of the podium and the lincoln memorial. and i looked straight ahead and i saw all of these people with their shoes off, their feet in the water trying to cool off. i looked straight ahead and i said to myself, this is it. and i started speaking. >> those saying be patient and wait, we must say we cannot be patient. we do not want our freedom gradually. but we want to be free now. >> two days after the march was over with was the terrible bombing of that church. it was a sad and dark hour for the movement. it just tore at the essence of our heart. i went to birmingham sunday
morning. and i cried and cried. but i made up my mind to go into selma and go to other parts of the south and that's exactly what we did to gain and fight for the right to vote. >> you were beat on the edmond bridge within inches of your life. and that really led to the voting rights act of '65. and now as you will speak here tomorrow with martin iii and i and others that have called this you a hero and symbol to all of us that grew up watching you like you watched dr. king. and you have a black president in the white house, a black attorney general who will be at the march with us. but we still have challenges. how do we compare the challenges of today with the challenges 50 years ago? >> i got to inspire another generation of young people. blacks and whites, latinos,
asian-american, native-american. all of us got to push and pull and we've got to get out there. they're forces and not just in the american south. but forces all across our country that want to take us back to another period. and we got to say we're not going back. we've come too far now to stop or to go back. i think the march 50 years ago set so much in motion. it changed this country forever. and we will never be the same. >> that was my interview with congressman john lewis from the steps of the lincoln memorial. it was an honor to speak with him there. in that time and place. next, the powerful drive of the ordinary people who fueled this movement. they inspired the man who inspired the nation. >> my country 'tis of thee. sweet land of liberty of thee i
sing. land where my fathers died. land of the pilgrims pride. from every mountainside, let freedom ring. >> i'll get reflections from two who were there including the young woman in this iconic photograph now all grown up. and as we go to break, the day was as lively as it was historic. it included moments of humor from comedy legend dick gregory. >> i can't tell you how elated i am, although looking out at so many of our smiling faces and to be honored with you. the last time i've seen this many of us was doing all the talking. thank you. [ kitt ] you know what's impressive? a talking car. but i'll tell you what impresses me.
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when dr. king came out, he was this little guy. and i said look at this guy. he's a little guy. but he came out and took the mic and he just absolutely mesmerized a quarter of a million people. >> hatred left me that day, because i saw a lot of love permeating around this grassy knoll. hot summer day in august of 1963. changed a 17-year-old girl. >> the march on washington changed countless lives, but none more than the young people who were there.
edith lee payne celebrated her birthday on august 29th, 1963. her picture that day has become an iconic image of the march and the young people fighting to make this country a better place. joining me now is that little girl all grown up now. also with us is michael grunko who was just seven years old when he went to the march on washington. thank you both for being here. edith, your picture has become a famous picture of the march, but you first saw that photo just a few years ago. how did you find out about it? >> well, my cousin marsha was browsing a catalog of calendars and she saw my picture on the back of this calendar and to my surprise and amazement, it was me. >> why were you here at the march on your 12th birthday? >> my mother dorothy lee had
experienced some of the problems in the south in her travels as an entertainer. she wanted to stand up with everyone else for the injustices that people were experiencing and she of course wanted me to be with her to do that. >> now, michael, you grew up in maine far away from the problems. and obviously you were not an african-american. why was it so important for you to stand up and be a part of this march? >> i was a jewish kid growing up in bangor, and my father had come over from poland. my parents had experienced discrimination because of their religion. my dad changed his name from gruski to grunko. but i had the opportunity because almost by accident i joined the naacp in the spring of '63. and then in the summer in june and july i got a phone call from
the president of the maine naacp saying do you want to be a youth representative to the march on washington? and i turned to my family and i said i'd like to go. and my aunt from brooklyn, new york, said they'll kill him. he'll die. and i waited until she left, and then i talked to my dad and then my mom. they said okay. so i hopped on a greyhound bus and the bus took me to lewiston, maine, and we met somebody and went to boston. there were 30 buses in boston. the six of us climbed on and drove through the night and came to baltimore for breakfast and as i -- >> how was it traveling to the march? >> everything got erased by the sense of coming into a bus full of people, people of color who were full of the spirit. who were singing the songs, who were going some place to speak truth to power, going to stand
witness for the righteous cause that they were standing for. and as we were pulling down route 1 down new york avenue here in washington, i noticed that not only was every -- was the lane of buses going south full, but they turned the northbound lane into a southbound lane and there were two lanes of buses streaming into washington. at that point what i thought was big, i realized was huge. >> you know, edith, i want you to listen to the photographer who took your picture. and listen to what he has to say. >> i was shooting and i looked over and saw this young black girl, really beautiful, very serious and interested in what was happening. and i did a picture of her that's turned out to be the -- she turned out to be the poster child for not only the march, but her image is all over. it's a terrific image. i'm very, very proud of it.
>> you know, you were only 12 years old that day. and do you remember what you were thinking about during the march? >> i do. i remember thinking, even before coming to the march, but i remember thinking how important it was, because living in -- growing up in detroit, michigan, i lived the dream that dr. king talked about. i lived in an integrated neighborhood. we rode the bus. my mother and i, she didn't drive. we ate at lunch counters. i went to an integrated church. so when i heard that people in the south couldn't do the things that i did, while i knew the constitution and the declaration of independence and recited the pledge of allegiance every day, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, that's what i expected the entire country to do. thankfully, dr. king stood up for that, for those people that weren't able to do those things.
and this was the passion that i felt on that day. >> what do you most remember about the speeches and the program that day, michael? anything? you were 17 at the time. anything stand out in your mind? >> you know, it was this sense, the sea of humanity of black people and white people, and the voices of the speakers, of john lewis and of all the other speakers. the music. i can remember peter, paul, and mary singing and it was this, you know, it was inspiring, it was a sense that this was going to be a nonviolent, a hugely impressive show that people were standing together and standing up for what was right. >> edith, i see you brought me some banners of the march and this is beautiful. and your mother brought you to the march. i understand you brought your granddaughters. y'all drove all the way from detroit to march with us here tomorrow. >> that's right. >> bring them up. these are your granddaughters from detroit, that drove with
you to be a part of the march, so you're doing with them what your mom did with you. >> yes. >> isn't that wonderful? >> yes. >> well, we're proud of you and we're proud of you, and 50 years later, you lived to tell the story. edith lee-payne, and michael grunko, thank you both for your time tonight. >> thank you so much. ahead, the dream continues. lessons from the march on washington that we can carry with us as we march on. and as we go to break, reflections on the march from one of our greatest actors, marlon brando, and one of our greatest writers, james baldwin. >> i felt there was no reason not to be involved with what is one of the most significant, most important, and most noted demonstrations to free americans that has ever happened in this
country. >> someone said that the march is not so strong as an idea whose time has come, and certainly the time has come for civil rights. this is a northern problem, an eastern problem, a western problem, and it's our mutual problem and i think when you contribute to it and i contribute to some solution of it, and all these people here in history will solve it. good job!
made tremendous progress, but the effort to change this country for the better still lives on. and that's something the president, president obama reflected on during an event at a university in upstate new york earlier today. >> 50 years after the march on washington and the "i have a dream" speech, obviously, we've made enormous strides. i'm a testament to it, you're a testament to it. the diversity of this room and, you know, the students who are here is a testimony to it. and that impulse towards making sure everybody gets a fair shot, is one that found expression in the civil rights movement, but then spread to include latinos
and immigrants and gays and lesbians and, you know, what's wonderful to watch is that the younger generation seems -- each generation seems wiser in terms of wanting to treat people fairly, and do the right thing, and not discriminate. and that's a great victory that we should all be very proud of. on the other hand, i think what we've also seen is that the legacy of discrimination, slavery, jim crow, has meant that, you know, some of the institutional barriers for success for a lot of groups still exist. >> a lot still exist, which is why on tomorrow, 50 years later, we gather at the same place to
march and to stand up and say the dream that dr. king expressed 50 years ago is a dream that has not been achieved yet. yes, we can celebrate that we've come a long way in 50 years. an african-american president, an african-american attorney general, african-american governor, african-american ceos. women have moved forward. the lbgt community have moved forward. there's been progress. but we still have a long way to go. look at the moves of trying to stifle voters, voter suppression. look at how women still only make 77 cents to a dollar to men. look at the high immigration problems and the great problems that we face for latinos, for workers. we're not there yet. and we cannot have a celebration without a continuation.
we owe it to dr. king. we owe it to goodman, cheney, and swerner. we owe it to metger evers. those that thought enough of us to lay down their lives that we not sit back now and lounge on the couches of indifference, when we ought to say, thank you to them, by continuing to finish the course. they ran the rough rounds. we can finish the easy rounds and complete the manifestation and the actualizing of the dream of dr. king. i'm al sharpton. thanks for watching this special edition of "politics nation," live from lincoln memorial in washington, d.c., where we all try to advance the dream.